PULLING DOWN SATAN’S STRONGHOLDS
M. G. RICKARD
The Mercury News announced that the San Jose city council was proposing, Gay Pride Week. A vote would be taken soon. The changing moral standards had given such boldness to homosexuals that they were seeking public approval of their lifestyle, a style of living once called wicked and evil and licentious. The Human Relations Commission, an appointed group, was active in the whole episode. One of its members was said to be a gay person. Most, if not all, of the other members were sympathetic.
Somehow I was invited to attend a meeting of the Human Relations Commission to “express your views on homosexuality.” I assumed that they wanted spiritual direction, and since our church was now a large leading church in the area, I might be helpful in reaffirming traditional values. How naive I was. They listened intently and some took notes as I gave the biblical view. I think I remember seeing a tape recorder. Later I wished I had brought one myself. When I finished, the attack was unanimous, and it included a minister and an ex-priest. They were prepared to answer every argument and defend homosexuality from every humanistic perspective. I stood by the Bible and kept my anger under control. Not a single person on that commission held traditional American and biblical views. I say “American and biblical” because our nation’s laws and moral standards were once all based on biblical commands and principles. As the tenets of secular humanism have formed our educational philosophy since John Dewey, atheism, evolution, and situation ethics have insinuated themselves into society. Where good people have not been taught the Bible as the Word of God, their thinking and their decisions have allowed such contradictions as Gay Pride. That a community should officially proclaim pride in sin was incredible evidence of the shift in moral values.
What had happened? Was it somehow the fault of the churches? Sociological changes since World War II were involved. Prior to that war, communities were fairly static and changed slowly. The war caused building booms, especially in California communities. People were moving in by the thousands, drawn by defense work or displaced by military service. As mechanization made farm work possible by fewer and fewer people, a move to the cities followed. Urbanization drew people to the cities by multitudes. Suburban housing needs resulted in acres of tract homes.
How did this rather sudden change affect churches? Prior to World War II, the influential churches in the cities were nearly all downtown. They were influential because they were large, and for another reason as well: Their ministers and pastors stayed a long time, often for twenty or thirty years.
This meant stability. Their facilities were prestigious and made of granite or stone. Furthermore, the people were taught the Bible and held it up as the Word of God. Those honorable ministers were looked up to as the voice of godliness in the communities. When they spoke out on a subject, what they said was news. Sometimes whole messages were reported in the papers, or a summary was given.
Two factors combined to weaken the voice of the church in the community. Liberalism had come into the seminaries of the major denominations, questioning the accuracy and the authority of the Bible. And the size of the old line denominational downtown churches was dwindling. Thus we had the formerly influential churches getting smaller and smaller with less and less to say to their communities on moral and biblical behavior. With no confidence in the Bible, those liberal ministers emphasized social concerns, quoting Jesus or using scripture to support their causes, but not as the final authoritative Word of God.
As the downtown areas of the large cities deteriorated, churches sold out and relocated to where the people were moving. In the suburbs they struggled to translate worn assets in declining areas into property and buildings. They required smaller facilities and could only afford modest styles. Thus the prestige and influence of the pre-World War If churches, pastored by men who preached the Bible as the inspired Word of God, were replaced by neighborhood churches in smaller facilities whose leaders majored on political issues or social concerns. Unfortunately, the position the National Council of Churches’ affiliates took was often inconsistent with traditional and fundamental biblical positions.
Meanwhile, the more fundamental churches were also leaving downtown for the suburbs and building even more modest church facilities. I don’t mean to imply that there were no large influential churches in downtown areas which continued to preach the Bible as the Word of God. There were, but their size and influence also decreased by the time they managed to salvage some assets and relocate.
For several years the two kinds of churches continued to hold services, to grow, to upgrade their facilities and to be generally accepted in their neighborhoods. But fundamental churches grew more than their liberal counterparts whose once-powerful denominations were steadily losing members. All at once it seemed that we heard of church after church, all across the country, which mushroomed into huge congregations in impressive buildings on several acres.
Where most churches had managed to maintain a minister, an assistant minister, a secretary and a custodian, the super-churches had youth ministers, music staff, children’s workers, and maybe even a cook. Some had their own print room and printer. Moreover, a few had begun to pioneer Christian television. And some were sending missionaries out, totally supported by local churches.
Communities just weren’t prepared for the sudden emergence of such churches with their traffic, their schools, their TV, their visibility, and their building applications. A generation had grown up thinking that churches were modest in size and worshiped in subdued tones in quiet neighborhoods, were dark on Sunday nights and empty all week long! And they certainly weren’t prepared for the new variety of churches to speak up against anything on the basis of the Word of God and biblical righteousness.
They were largely unprepared by previous experience to deal with churches and ministers who came to city council meetings to stand against them, opposing elected officials on issues such as Gay Pride Week. The modern politician seems largely ignorant of the role of the churches in American communities throughout out history. These present politicians, other than the increasing number who come from our ranks, think of the churches as those little groups in the suburbs with their routines of worship whose leaders never rock the political boat.
With sufficient opposition from our church and others, the politicians decided it would be better to declare the special week Human Rights Week.
The Human Relations Commission was incensed and determined to forge ahead with even bigger plans. The homosexual movement is nationwide and organized to gain attention and acceptance, with San Francisco being their prize city. There were no downtown churches in San Francisco to even raise a warning voice. No spiritual revival has ever happened in that place. The natural beauty God created and man appreciates is today obscured by the incredible human sin tolerated there by the officials and the people. And many in San Jose and Santa Clara County wanted our area to be the next showplace of sexual perversion.
Thus, a proposition was introduced to the supervisors of Santa Clara County which would protect homosexuals from discrimination in housing and jobs. Believing that existing laws fully protect citizens against discrimination of all varieties and recognizing the proposition for what it was, a thinly disguised means of once again promoting and flaunting homosexuality before the people in order to gain acceptance and tolerance, we went into action.
Along with other church leaders and a group called Concerned Citizens, we began attending the supervisors’ meetings to object. In meeting after meeting where public testimony was heard, no evidence was ever presented to prove the need for such an ordinance. Over twenty-four total hours of testimony was heard, twenty-three of it against the proposed ordinance. It was evident that the supervisors, with the exception of the chairman, were deaf to all that we said. Some supervisors showed their disdain for public opinion when it wasn’t shared by themselves by visiting with each other when we were speaking or simply turning their swivel chairs so that we looked and spoke to the backs of their heads!
Eventually the day came for a vote to be taken. We had urged our members to attend the hearing, even providing church buses. Other churches did the same. As many as 1000 people overflowed the large board room, filling the wide interior corridors and spilling over to the outside where speakers were hastily set up. My wife and I, along with our married children, and son, Doug, were amazed at the size of the crowd. Two leading ministers saw us coming toward the building and came to meet us. “Will you be our spokesman!” they asked. I hesitated and they insisted, assuring us that places for us had been reserved on the front row.
A little additional testimony was allowed, with nothing new or different being added. The atmosphere was crackling with tension and frustration on the side of the Bible believers. The chairman of the board of supervisors asked me by name to come to the podium and express once again the reasons for our objections to the proposed ordinance. TV cameras were everywhere, as before. Just as I started to speak on behalf of biblical morality and righteousness, a most unusual thing happened. It took just a moment to realize what it was, but as I was speaking a powerful California earthquake rolled across the Santa Clara Valley, rocking that building and all within it for several minutes.
Hundreds of Christians stood to their feet and began to applaud! Then they began to laugh and cheer, breaking into song after song. I remember the ashen, sober faces of the supervisors. The drama of it didn’t escape them, but they were resolute, except for the chairman, to reject the Bible and the God who controls earthquakes. To them it was coincidence. To us it was Providence.
When the earthquake ceased and subsided to little aftershocks, I said, “You supervisors may wonder why we all laughed and cheered when the earthquake hit. We are students of the Bible, and we know that many times in scripture God demonstrated His presence and ultimate authority on earth by sending an earthquake. We believe that He wants to show you that His Word is still true regarding homosexual sin.” At that, the place erupted in a great standing ovation to God and the Bible, many people pointing heavenward.
When everyone finally sat down again with the steady rapping of the gavel, I spoke once more. “We urge you to reject the proposed ordinance, but if you should vote as you have indicated you intend to, I guarantee we will solicit the required names on petitions to place the issue on the ballot of a special election for all the people. And we will vote it out!”
As one, the people again rose to their feet applauding and cheering.
Again the gavel rapped for order and quiet. Something in me welled up into one more statement. “Mr. Chairman,” I said, “If you vote for this ordinance which has the effect of accepting homosexual practices as normal and good, we Christians serve you notice that, one by one, we intend to vote you right out of office!” I can’t describe the incredible roar of approval by those hundreds of Christians.
The churches were once again fulfilling their proper role as salt and light in the community. Salt to retard the spoilage and light to illuminate the darkness of perversion before the entire community. As in days long past, the churches and pastors were the conscience of the community. We had broken out of our steepled boxes to remind the populous of the will of God. Our phone lines were nearly melted by the obscene calls we received from anguished homosexuals and others. For several weeks our home phone rang often during the night, but it was always either silent when we answered or alive with filth.
The city of San Jose, not to be outdone, passed their own version of the ordinance over our protest in public hearings. They debated less and passed on it before much could be done.
In brief, sufficient signatures in both the county and the city were quickly obtained, many churches realizing that this was no political issue but a test of conviction. When the issue appeared on the ballots, the voters rejected the ordinances in both cases by overwhelming numbers. It was evident that the community at large was willing to listen to the voice of the Bible believing churches.
Not many of us seek to be controversial or enjoy that role if it should fall our lot. Yet if only one sentry is awake on the wall when the enemy is set to attack, he had better sound the alarm. With the rise of secular humanism and the decline of our former Judaic-Christian heritage in America, we have to face the fact that other battles lie ahead. We don’t want to get the church involved in partisan or personal politics, but when a moral matter ends up on the ballot, we can be thankful that we still have political means of responding. The church will have to “mix politics and religion” at such times.
PRINCIPLES TO PONDER
1. The church should be the conscience of the community.
2. “Beware when all men speak well of you.”
3. Large churches can exert great influence in their communities on issues of a moral nature.
4. Religion and politics must sometimes mix.